Policing student attire over Zoom is harmful

Photo+credit%3A+Ren+Rader

Photo credit: Ren Rader

Illustration by Ren Rader

For many of us, our homes have become our new headquarters: A space where we juggle work, class, safe socialization and relaxation. On some days — or for some, all days — we wish we had the privilege to push through back-to-back Zoom classes from the comfort of our own bed.

As some schools kicked off their semester as early as August, students took to social media to express frustration over the requests made by their professors and teachers amid the pandemic. One of the most common requests? A dress code for Zoom classes.

While I can’t say I was surprised — as schools have been getting called out for enforcing racist, sexist and classist dress codes for decades — I was astonished at the attempt at continued control over students’ bodies by so many schools and universities despite virtual learning. Many school districts have extended their regular dress code guidelines to the Zoom landscape, and some college professors have gone as far as to say that students cannot wear pajamas, eat during class, or attend class from their bed.

After seeing people report these instances, all I could do was wonder why these institutions would be so demanding during an already difficult time. Clothing has become one of the few sources of comfort in a version of our world that continues to bring forth challenge after challenge due to the pandemic and its effects on our communities. Many people, including myself, are accustomed to finding comfort in the presence of others and spaces outside of our homes. We all need human interaction and healthy relationships; it’s part of the human experience. However, because of social distancing precautions, we have lost the ability to access this comfort with ease or at all. Clothing is one way for students to feel comfortable during this very uncomfortable time.

Whether you’re living at home with your parents, on-campus in a dorm room, or in an apartment alone or with friends, none of us are in the living situation we expected to be in prior to March of this year. Students in residence halls are without roommates and are distanced from friends; those living in apartments are struggling to establish separation between their home and workspaces; people at home are among their parents and siblings for longer than initially planned — which, let’s be honest, has been a test of patience for many of us.

No professor, peer, or friend is going to completely understand what one’s living situation looks like right now. The best thing that we can do for one another is be understanding and considerate of the fact that, regardless of where we are attending classes, nobody planned to be in this position.

To be able to dress up for class is liberating for some, and power to you if that is the case. However, we should not place blame or look down upon those who are currently seeking comfort from their at-home wardrobe at a time where most ordinary sources of comfort are off-limits. What we need right now is support from our communities, including our administrators and professors. What we don’t need is to be further divided by them.

Some have coined the term “slob-chic” to define this era when sweatpants are the dominant fashion trend; however, I think it’s okay to call it what it is: comfort.

As we navigate these complex new relationships we have with our homes — a space intended to provide an escape from our usual duties during the day — meeting some arbitrary dress code should be the least of our worries. When the world is as uncertain as it currently is, we should at least have the autonomy to dress in a way that feels comfortable.